Image 'License inspected, Forrest Creek', 1853

TLF ID R4402

This is a hand-coloured lithograph of 'License [licence] inspected, Forrest [Forest] Creek', a watercolour by S T Gill. It was printed as a plate in part one of 'The Victoria gold diggings and diggers as they are', published in London in 1853. The drawing depicts a man holding a rifle in one hand and a mining licence in the other. Two miners are watching him. One is standing at ground level with his arms crossed, while the other, standing in a recently dug hole, leans back on his elbows, appearing unperturbed that the licence is being inspected. Nearby are a pick and shovel, a wooden wheelbarrow full of dirt, and the stump of a medium-sized tree. In the background other miners can be seen.




Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset invokes the 'gold rush' era in Australia - with the discovery of gold in 1851, first in New South Wales and then in Victoria, profound demographic, social, economic and political change occurred in the two colonies as tens of thousands of people 'rushed' to the gold fields to try their luck; newspaper reports talked of 'a complete mental madness' and 'gentlemen foaming at the mouth'; many gold-seekers came from overseas and the population of Victoria alone jumped from 76,000 to 540,000 between 1851 and 1861.
  • It depicts miners on the Forest Creek or Mount Alexander gold field, once one of the biggest shallow alluvial gold fields in the world - now known as the Castlemaine diggings, the area has been designated a National Heritage Park because it retains much of its 1850s gold rush character; physical evidence of the mining days, such as tracks, burial grounds, quartz roasting kilns and sluices, can still be seen.
  • It highlights how the Victorian government required every digger on the gold fields to obtain a mining 'licence' for 30 shillings per month - a licence gave the holder the right to dig in a small area, usually about 6 square metres; the licence fee, which was a large sum at the time, was payable in advance, regardless of whether or not any gold was found.
  • It appears to show an official licence inspection - although the man holding the licence is not wearing a recognisable uniform, he has an air of authority and carries a weapon; miners greatly resented 'licence raids', which were generally carried out by police officers who arrested and prosecuted any diggers without licences.
  • It features the site of the first mass protest meeting on the Victorian gold fields against the mining licence fees - after several thousand men protested on the Mount Alexander gold field in December 1851, unrest continued on other gold fields, culminating in the Eureka Stockade rebellion at Ballarat in December 1854, which cost the lives of about 30 diggers and at least five soldiers.
  • It highlights the multicultural nature of the Australian gold fields - the Mount Alexander gold field attracted large numbers of people from Europe and America, and it was the first Victorian site where Chinese gold-seekers gathered in large numbers; the dark-skinned miner depicted in Gill's drawing is probably an African American.
  • It shows examples of gold rush miners' clothing and equipment - diggers usually wore loose jackets and serge shirts, corduroy or moleskin trousers, heavy boots and 'cabbage tree' hats, woven from the leaves of the native cabbage tree palm; in Gill's drawing, the diggers' relatively simple equipment comprises a pick and shovel, and a wooden wheelbarrow.
  • It features a drawing by the artist Samuel Thomas Gill (1818-80) - English-born Gill arrived in Australia in 1839 and lived and worked in Adelaide, Victoria and Sydney, becoming well-known for his realistic and often humorous paintings of everyday life; although he was prolific, and his work covers many subjects, his Old Melbourne Cemetery gravestone honours him as 'The artist of the gold-fields'.
Year level

4; 5

Other details

Contributors
  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL: http://www.nla.gov.au
  • Name: H H Collins and Co
  • Organization: H H Collins and Co
  • Description: Author
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Samuel Thomas Gill
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL: http://www.esa.edu.au
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL: www.esa.edu.au
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
Rights
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements